Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Poems: Willie Perdomo

Willie Pedomo,
by Gabrielle Ramírez
The following two poems, though nominally night-focused, are really occasions for me to post work by Willie Perdomo, one of today's vital poets. I met him years ago when I was teaching on the Lower East Side, and introduced his work to my students, who like me not only fell in love with it, but grasped in it a way of seeing and understanding the world they were living in, while also learning how to write and read that world, how to put it into language and in so doing reshape it.

A native of New York City and son of East Harlem, his work extends and enriches a range of traditions, especially Nuyorican, Puerto Rican and African Diasporic writing, and he has received a raft of awards for it. I can recall the excitement that greeted his book When a Nickel Costs a Dime, which featured a CD (then a relatively rare addition) from which the two poems below come, and he has continued to publish, perform, teach, and reach, including creating a publishing house, Cypher Books, to issue the poetry of today.  Here are "Song for Langston," a poet whose influence runs through the arteries of Willie's work, and "Revolution," which is as relevant today, in this world of endless, oppressive "Stop and Frisk" policing, as it was almost 20 years, when Willie wrote it.


I sang all night
And cried all day

Been wait' for a
Storm to come my way

Drown the tears
Make soft the pain

I hope my prayers
Are not in vain


One night
Brother Lo told
Officer Rooney:

     take off your
     badge and gun
     and see if I don't
     bust your ass all
     the way back to
     the precinct.    

Copyright © Willie Perdomo, from When a Nickel Costs a Dime, New York: W. W. Norton, Inc., 1996. All rights reserved.

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